Pointless grade tampering

7th January 2005 at 00:00
I do hope if these A* and A** grades are introduced it will be by increasing the challenge of the courses and the papers rather than just increasing the marks required to get a top grade (TES, December 10.) It would be a test of who did not make a silly mistake rather than genuine excellence.

However, I feel these "super grades" are entirely missing the point. The other little-mentioned fact is that one does not hear of too many A grades in maths, physics, chemistry or languages.

Schools calculate target grades in A-level subjects from GCSE results. Some subjects, strangely those above, require a very high GCSE average to "predict" an A grade. Others do so on a more modest score.

Maybe the exam boards need to be instructed to beef up those courses to the level of the most demanding. A set percentage of top grades as the Tories propose would exacerbate this difference.

Much about our current system is excellent; AS has encouraged high standards by getting the lower sixth to do more work and making the standards jump over two years increases confidence. In my experience this improvement has been particularly noticeable among boys who need the "kick" administered by modules more.

Making AS-levels 40 per cent rather than 50 per cent of the A-level might be necessary, and more challenging questions are needed, but otherwise it is working well. Let us address the small number of real problems and celebrate the very real success rather than go in for pointless breast-beating.

Karen Revans. 20 Quantock Close. North Petherton, Somerset

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